The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) paid tribute to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for asserting the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) where China has constructed artificial islands and reportedly interfered with Filipino fishing activities.
It pointed out the PCG’s installation of five navigational buoys near four Philippine-held detachments in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly Islands) in the WPS to help ensure safer navigation of ships and assert the country’s sovereignty in the disputed waters.
The five navigational buoys bearing the Philippine flag were planted near Lawak Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Likas (West York) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, and Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
“The CHR lauds the efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard for asserting the sovereignty of the Philippines over the disputed territories where China has constructed artificial islands and interfered with Filipino fishing activities,” CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.
“No State should deprive our Filipino fisherfolk from carrying out their livelihood in our national territories. The installation of navigational buoys is a notice to the rest of the international community that the Philippines is asserting sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group,” De Guia, a lawyer, said.
She lamented that China continues to claim sovereignty over the said territory, even though the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2016 issued a unanimous, 501-page Award and an eleven-page press release declaring that the Philippines had sovereign rights over the Panganiban or Mischief Reef, Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal, and Recto or Reed Bank of Palawan.
“These were awarded to the Philippines because they form part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental reef,” she stressed.
“While, regarding China’s claims, the PCA ruled that China has no historic rights to resources in the South China Sea and that such right was extinguished to the extent they were incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided for in the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), China has no legal basis to claim over the ‘nine-dash line’ historic claim,” she pointed out.
In 2013, after years of unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement through political and diplomatic channels and amid rising tensions in the region, the late former President Benigno S. Aquino III decided to avail himself of the legal mechanism under UNCLOS.
On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal issued an award overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines and ultimately bringing some clarity to the overlapping claims in the area.